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Vikings Veterans Well-Versed in Border Battle

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Adam Thielen had a choice and a three-plus-hour drive from Detroit Lakes to Minneapolis on each side. The game he always wanted to attend during his youth was Vikings-Packers.

"It was always an exciting game, and the crowd was always nuts," said Thielen. "It was always a game I wanted to go to as a kid, and now being on the other side of it, it's still a huge game. We play them twice a year, and usually they're on the top for the division, so it's a key game for us."

Now entering his third active season with the Vikings, Thielen is looking forward to Sunday night's home opener against Green Bay. He hopes the crowd is just as riled up at U.S. Bank Stadium as he remembers them being at the Metrodome. Although he said each and every game is viewed as a "big game" by him and his teammates, Thielen also expects a level of intensity as the Vikings face their border rivals after dethroning them as division champs last season.

Adrian Peterson didn't grow up in Minnesota, but 10 seasons with the Vikings have him well-accustomed to the atmosphere surrounding a matchup with Green Bay.

"There's always energy when it comes to playing those guys, for obvious reasons," Peterson said. "But Sunday night, home opener against Green Bay, I think it's going to be electric, to say the least […] guys are locked in, guys are focused."

Look back at photos through the years featuring games between the Vikings and Packers.

Sunday will mark Peterson's 17th time facing Green Bay in a regular-season game, third-most only to Brian Robison (19) and Chad Greenway (18). Peterson has racked up 1,979 yards (1,760 rushing) and 14 total touchdowns against the Packers. The number he's looking to increase, however, is three – the number of times he's donned an NFC North Division Champions baseball cap since beginning his NFL career.

"It's all about winning the North, and before last year, that went through Green Bay," Peterson added. "It's going to be important for us this year to make sure we're zoned in, we're focused, to change that tide all the way over."

Greenway said it takes a little while to fully understand and appreciate the rivalry between the neighboring teams and the role that fans themselves play in the Border Battle.

"We feed off of it," said Greenway, who has 95 solo tackles against the Packers. "They've had a great run, and we're trying to overcome them and be the team that's the perennial NFC North champ."

Greenway said he can't wait for the rematch of sorts against Green Bay.

"The environment's going to be electric," Greenway said. "The new stadium's going to be opened up with them, and it's going to be so fun."  

All division games are equally important on the field, but historically it seems that Vikings and Packers fans have a special sort of relationship – or lack thereof.

Captain Munnerlyn, who joined the Vikings in 2014 after five seasons in Carolina, said he had heard about the rivalry through the league but didn't recognize its intensity until he arrived in Minnesota.

"I didn't expect it to be this crazy," Munnerlyn said. "You go around here, you see signs that say 'House Divided' and things like that. […] It's a fun rivalry to be a part of, and to play this game on Sunday, I'm definitely excited for it."

Munnerlyn said he expects a figurative brawl on the field between teams.

"We just hope we can come out with a win on Sunday and have our fans [going to work happy] on Monday."

An alum of South Carolina, Munnerlyn is no stranger to healthy rivalries between teams. Neither is Rhett Ellison, who attended Southern California and often gets into some good-natured ribbing with his UCLA alumni teammates. Ellison said the Green Bay-Minnesota competition brings him back to his university days.

"It's cool, because you don't really get a lot of these in the NFL," Ellison said. "It's fun to have that kind of camaraderie and almost that college-type rivalry. It's not exactly the same, but it's close."

In Thielen's lifetime, the Vikings are 24-30 against the Packers. He hopes to add another pair of wins to the equation this season.

"It's going to be tough [this] year – they're going to be coming for us," Thielen said. "This is the first time in a while that we've been on top, and they're kind of coming for us. We're going to have a target on our back, but we're just going to have to come in there and play hard."

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